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Lett Appl Microbiol. 2009 Jul;49(1):85-90. doi: 10.1111/j.1472-765X.2009.02622.x. Epub 2009 Apr 22.

Antibacterial activity of sphagnum acid and other phenolic compounds found in Sphagnum papillosum against food-borne bacteria.

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1
Department of Food Safety and Infection Biology, Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, Oslo, Norway.

Abstract

AIMS:

To identify the phenolic compounds in the leaves of Sphagnum papillosum and examine their antibacterial activity at pH appropriate for the undissociated forms.

METHODS AND RESULTS:

Bacterial counts of overnight cultures showed that whilst growth of Staphylococcus aureus 50084 was impaired in the presence of milled leaves, the phenol-free fraction of holocellulose of S. papillosum had no bacteriostatic effect. Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis of an acetone-methanol extract of the leaves detected eight phenolic compounds. Antibacterial activity of the four dominating phenols specific to Sphagnum leaves, when assessed in vitro as minimal inhibitory concentrations (MICs), were generally >2.5 mg ml(-1). MIC values of the Sphagnum-specific compound 'sphagnum acid' [p-hydroxy-beta-(carboxymethyl)-cinnamic acid] were >5 mg ml(-1). No synergistic or antagonistic effects of the four dominating phenols were detected in plate assays.

CONCLUSIONS:

Sphagnum-derived phenolics exhibit antibacterial activity in vitro only at concentrations far in excess of those found in the leaves.

SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPACT OF THE STUDY:

We have both identified the phenolic compounds in S. papillosum and assessed their antibacterial activity. Our data indicate that phenolic compounds in isolation are not potent antibacterial agents and we question their potency against food-borne pathogens.

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